Archive for the ‘macro photography’ Category

Test shots

September 17, 2021

I have been working on the prototype for a homemade curved clear plastic tray that is intended for staging subjects against a white background.

My goal for Thursday: Test the prototype stage using a toy mini-lizard as the model for some test shots, and if the proof-of-concept were established, substitute an odonate exuvia for the toy lizard and shoot another set of photos.

16 SEP 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | toy mini-lizard

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans! First, a line of fairly strong thunderstorms moved through the region where I live so I had to shut down my computer equipment. Second, the Washington Football Team played the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football so I had to watch the game. That’s right, had to watch. Turns out it was time well-spent.

Bottom line: I never finished the test shots of the toy lizard, and of course that means I didn’t shoot any photos of a real scientific specimen.

The curved surface of the clear plastic stage caused reflections from the single external flash that was used to light the subject. I had just figured out a work-around when the thunderstorms rolled in: I took 14 test shots; only the last one (shown above) is usable. I hadn’t intended to create a photo with a pure white background, but it was easy to adjust the image exposure during post-processing.

The Backstory

What’s my motivation? Many macro photographers use insect pins for mounting small subjects like odonate exuviae. I think there’s a big problem with that technique: The position of the pin is permanent. In other words, if the pin is attached to the ventral side of the specimen then it’s challenging at best and impossible at worst to take clean, clear shots of that side of the subject. I don’t want to use insect pins because some of my specimens are one of a kind.

For quite some time, I’ve been experimenting with the use of flat clear plastic stages as a solution for this problem. I think a curved stage might be a breakthrough, but more testing is required to be sure.

For example, notice the color fringing near the tip of the lizard’s tail — I’m not sure what caused that problem in only one part of the photo, therefore I don’t know how to fix it. Yet.

To be continued. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anax junius versus Anax longipes

September 10, 2021

The following photograph shows the relative size of odonate exuviae from two species in the Genus Anax: junius; and longipes. Both specimens are from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

Relative size of exuviae from Anax junius versus Anax longipes.

The Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) exuvia was collected on 17 June 2021 from a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) exuvia was collected by Stanley Caveney on 19 July 2021 from a pond at MeadowWoods in West Elgin, Ontario, Canada.

Taxonomy

There are five species of dragonflies in the Genus Anax for the United States and Canada: Amazon Darner (Anax amazili); Common Green Darner (Anax junius); Comet Darner (Anax longipes); Giant Darner (Anax walsinghami); and Blue-spotted Comet (Anax concolor).

Common Green Darner and Comet Darner are the only species from the Genus Anax found where I live in Northern Virginia USA.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Post update: What is it?

September 7, 2021

Since I started exploring ways to provide continuous power for my digital cameras, I have been guided by two questions. 1. Will it work? 2. Is it safe? I watched a YouTube video recently that reminded me of the latter question.

External Power for Cameras, the Safest Options by Graham Houghton (14:53) inspired me to search online for an inline voltage meter with USB connectors.

Drok USB Tester

After watching several more YouTube videos, I decided to buy a Digital Meter USB Tester Multifunction Digital Voltmeter/Ammeter/Power Meter/Capacity Tester/Charger 5in1 USB Panel Meter, available from a company in the United States called “Drok.” The MSRP for the Drok USB Tester is $15.99. The one I ordered from the Drok Store on Amazon cost $9.99.

The device features one male USB connector for input, and two female USB connectors for output.

GyroVu continuous power adapter

The next photo shows a GyroVu USB TO PANASONIC DMC-GH2 (DMW-BLC12) BATTERY 40″ CABLE w/ 3.1A USB POWER SUPPLY. The device can be used to provide continuous power for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera.

The “USB Charger” — a small white power brick — was plugged into a 120V AC electrical outlet. Look closely at the full-size version of the following image. Notice the USB Charger output is 5V=3.1A. (3.1A = 3100mA.)

Testing the GyroVu continuous power adapter

The Drok USB Tester was connected to the 3100mA USB connector on the GyroVu USB Charger, shown above.

The USB cable for the GyroVu dummy battery was connected to “Output 1” of the Drok USB Tester; the dummy battery was inserted into the battery compartment of my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300.

The last photo — the same one featured in my last blog post — shows the LED display on the front of the Drok USB Tester after my camera was powered on, indicating the output voltage of the USB Charger was 5V and the camera was drawing a current of 0.45A.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 (121mm) plus Raynox DCR-250.

The output voltage of the GyroVu dummy battery is 8.0V so the “dummy” battery must contain a DC-to-DC step-up converter.

I plan to use a multimeter to test the actual voltage output of the GyroVu dummy battery, that is, as soon as I can find my RadioShack mulitimeter. (Someday I’ll get organized so I know where everything is!)

Sidebar: Deep Dive into Tech Specs

The Web page for the GyroVu continuous power adapter shown above says the product is for the Panasonic DMC-GH2 camera. How could I be sure the device would work with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera?

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 uses a Panasonic DMW-BLC12 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery (7.2V, 1200mAh). Turns out that’s the same battery used by the Panasonic DMC-GH2. I know this thanks to Wasabi Power for providing a list of Panasonic cameras that use the DMW-BLC12 battery. (See the Web page for the PANASONIC DMW-BLC12 AC POWER ADAPTER KIT WITH DC COUPLER FOR PANASONIC DMW-DCC8, DMW-AC8 BY WASABI POWER, a product similar to the GyroVu continuous power adapter.)

Editor’s Note: The MSRP for the Wasabi Power continuous power adapter is $23.99 — nearly $10 less than the MSRP of $33.95 for the GyroVu USB Power Supply. You might be wondering why I didn’t buy the Wasabi Power device.

Notice the Wasabi Power device uses round connectors rather than USB connectors. I prefer the GyroVu devices because the USB connectors on their dummy batteries give me the flexibility to use them with my Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W battery as a power source for select Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic digital cameras that I own.

Related Resources

This blog post is one in a series of posts related to continuous AC power and long-lasting battery power for select Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic digital cameras.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Comet Darner dragonfly (exuvia)

August 27, 2021

An odonate exuvia from a Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) was collected by Stanley Caveney on 19 July 2021 at MeadowWoods in West Elgin, Ontario, Canada.

This specimen is from Family Aeshnidae (Darners), as indicated by the following field marks: the exuvia has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like); the antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae/exuviae); and the eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

19 JUL 2021 | Ontario, Canada | Comet Darner exuvia (lateral view)

Lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax; the length of the exuvia indicates longipes (~6 cm, measured as is).

The Backstory

Stanley Caveney is shown in the first of several photos taken by Hugh Casbourn. Stan contacted me for confirmation of his tentative identification of several Comet Darner exuviae that he collected during July 2021. Stan kindly gave one of the exuviae to me.

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

I asked Stan whether he had taken photographs of the Comet Darner exuviae in situ. Stan hadn’t, so he and Hugh revisited a local pond where they searched for and found two more exuviae.

How many exuviae do you see in the next photo? Look closely — both cast skins are shown in the same image.

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

An exuvia from a female Comet Darner appears in the foreground of the preceding photograph…

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

and a male Comet Darner appears in the background.

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

I asked Stan for advice regarding where to look for Comet Darner exuviae.

The six exuviae found to date were mainly at the inner edge of the cattail beds, facing the open water of the pond and where the individual cattail plants were spaced out. Source Credit: Personal communication from Stanley Caveney.

Related Resource: Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz. Refer to pp. 21-22.

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Derek Caveney, Stan’s son, for shipping the exuvia to me. The specimen was packed so carefully that it arrived in excellent condition, as you can see in the first photo in this blog post. I’m looking forward to shooting a complete photo set of the exuvia.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Follow-up: Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter

August 20, 2021

In my last blog post, I mentioned that minor vignetting can be a problem when the Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter is mounted on some macro- and non-macro camera lenses.

Canon 100mm macro lens

In case you’re wondering whether vignetting is a problem when using two step-down rings with the Canon 100mm macro lens, it isn’t. As it turns out, the front lens element is recessed quite a bit from the lens barrel so the step-down rings cover little if any glass. Source Credit: Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, by Walter Sanford.

The first photo shows the front lens element of the Canon 100mm macro lens is in fact recessed quite a bit from the lens barrel.

Lens barrel without nested step-down rings.

The next photo shows the nested 67-52mm and 52-43mm step-down rings that I use to mount the Raynox DCR-250 on my Canon 100mm macro lens. Look closely at the full-size version of this image and you should see the step-down rings don’t cover any of the camera lens.

Lens barrel with nested step-down rings.

Disclaimer: This might or might not be true for other makes and models of 100mm macro lenses.

Panasonic Lumix superzoom bridge cameras

The camera lens will need to be adjusted for at least some slight telephoto zoom in order to eliminate the vignetting caused by mounting a 43mm filter on a lens with a 52mm filter size. Source Credit: Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, by Walter Sanford.

A Guide To Using Raynox Close Up Lenses on the FZ200 Camera, by Graham Houghton is the second item listed under “Related Resources” in my last blog post. Page 6 of Graham’s excellent guide describes a simple way to set-up both my Panasonic Lumix DCR-150 and DCR-300 superzoom bridge cameras so that vignetting isn’t a problem.

For the DMC-FZ300, press the “Menu/Set” button on the back of the camera, then select the camera icon in the left side-bar. Navigate to page 7/7 and select “Conversion”; select the icon for close-up lens. When the camera is powered-on, it will zoom to 4x (121 mm) automatically and the aperture will be limited to f/4 or smaller (f/4 to f/8).

For my older DMC-FZ150, the set-up process is the same except “Conversion” appears on page 5/5. Zoom is set to 4x and the aperture is limited to f/3.6 or smaller (f/3.6 to f/8).

Using either camera, the lens can be adjusted for greater than 4x zoom, resulting in more magnification.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter

August 17, 2021

I watched a video by Micael Widell recently that reminded me the Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter is a good value given its versatility.

Before I bought the Raynox close-up filter many years ago, I was skeptical that it would work. I still can’t explain why it works with many lenses I own including both macro- and non-macro lenses, but I can tell you with certainty it does work and works well!

Canon 100mm macro lens

The Canon 100mm macro lens has a maximum magnification of 1:1. Micael Widell says adding the Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to the lens increases the magnification from 1x to 2x. According the B&H Photo Specs page for the Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, its magification is 2.5x.

Calculating magnification is tricky and not as straightforward as one might think. In this case it doesn’t matter whether Mr. Widell or B&H Photo is correct, the fact of the matter is adding a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to your lens should at least double the magnification.

The first photograph shows the following equipment, couterclockwise from the upper-left: “snap-on universal adapter” for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Raynox close-up filter mounted on a 52-43mm step-down ring; and a 67-52mm step-down ring.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter comes with a “snap-on universal adapter” for mounting the filter on lenses with a filter size from 52-67mm. The universal adapter clips on the front of a lens the same as a lens cap. That’s OK for use in a photo studio but less than ideal for use in the field. In my opinion, it’s better to use inexpensive step-down rings to mount the close-up filter more securely.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

The Rube Goldberg rig shown above has a lot of parts, but for the purpose of this blog post focus on the Canon 100mm macro lens and Raynox DCR-250 mounted on the lens using nested 67-52mm and 52-43mm step-down rings.

In case you’re wondering whether vignetting is a problem when using two step-down rings with the Canon 100mm macro lens, it isn’t. As it turns out, the front lens element is recessed quite a bit from the lens barrel so the step-down rings cover little if any glass.

Panasonic Lumix superzoom bridge cameras

Both my Panasonic Lumix DCR-150 and DCR-300 superzoom bridge cameras feature a 52mm filter thread size. So it’s simple to use a 52-43mm step-down ring to mount the Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter on either camera lens.

Raynox DCR-250 not mounted on the camera lens.

The camera lens will need to be adjusted for at least some slight telephoto zoom in order to eliminate the vignetting caused by mounting a 43mm filter on a lens with a 52mm filter size.

Both cameras feature a 24x zoom lens, so when the Raynox DCR-250 is added to the kit the actual magnification will vary depending upon the focal length for which the camera lens is set.

Raynox DCR-250 shown mounted on the camera lens.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anatomy of a male Tiger Spiketail

August 10, 2021

The following annotated image shows a Tiger Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster erronea). This individual is a male, as indicated by his hamules, “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

Hamules

Hamules? What are hamules?

hamules: paired structures that project from genital pocket under second segment and hold female abdomen in place during copulation Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11618-116198). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3), as shown in the following annotated image. Hamules come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but their function is identical for all species of odonates. Some species of dragonflies and damselflies — such as Ashy Clubtail versus Lancet Clubtail and Southern Spreadwing versus Sweetflag Spreadwing, to name a few — can be differentiated/identified with certainty only by examining the hamules under magnification.

Photo used with written permission from Michael Powell.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Indented hind wings

Male members of many families of dragonflies have “indented” hind wings near the body, with some notable exceptions.

Hind wing venation and shape can identify the sex of most dragonflies. Petaltails, darners (except Anax), clubtails, spiketails, cruisers, and some emeralds. Wing shape isn’t helpful to sex baskettails since they are largely the same. They are different in Cordulia, Dorocordulia, Somatochlora and to a lesser degree, Neurocordulia. Source Credit: Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast.

Terminal appendages

Identifying female versus male dragonflies and damselflies can be challenging but it’s a little easier when you know how to differentiate their terminal appendages.

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”). Male dragonfly terminal appendages don’t look exactly the same for all species of dragonflies, but their function is identical.

Generally speaking, spiketail dragonflies have relatively small terminal appendages. That said, they must get the job done!

Related Resource: Tiger Spiketail dragonfly (male) – a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

 

Post update: Stylurus sp. exuvia

July 27, 2021

Three years ago I had the honor and pleasure of helping Michael Boatwright, my good friend and odonate hunting buddy, identify an interesting exuvia that he collected on 13 July 2018 at an undisclosed location in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

After working through several dichotomous keys for the identification of odonate larvae/exuviae, Mike and I determined the specimen is most likely from Zebra Clubtail (Stylurus scudderi). Zebra Clubtail is extremely rare in the state of Virginia.

The following annotated image shows a dorsal view of the exuvia.

13 JUL 2018 | Amherst County, VA USA | Stylurus scudderi (exuvia)

The best way to confirm our tentative identification of the exuvia is to find adult Zebra Clubtail at the same location. Easier said than done! During the next few years, Mike found more exuviae but no adults.

On 22 July 2021, years of searching the site finally came to fruition when Mike discovered a teneral female Zebra Clubtail, shown below.

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the teneral dragonfly is perched on the exuvia from which it emerged. Mike collected the exuvia after the dragonfly flew high into the tree canopy, so now we have the type specimen for verification of other exuviae.

Persistence pays

Sincere congratulations, Mike! You never gave up when it would have been the easier thing to do.

Related Resources

  • Stylurus sp. exuvia – a blog post by Walter Sanford providing a detailed account of the process used to determine the identity of the specimen collected by Mike on 13 July 2018.
  • Mike’s post in the Virginia Odonata Facebook group announcing his discovery on 22 July 2021. Mike is the founder and administrator of Virginia Odonata.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Post update: What is it?

July 6, 2021

I spotted an odonate exuvia along the shoreline of a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA that was collected by Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy.

This specimen is from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), as indicated by the following field marks: the exuvia has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like); the antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae/exuviae); and the eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Anax junius exuvia

Lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax; the length of the exuvia indicates junius (greater than ~4 cm, measured as is).

Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

Related Resource: What is it?

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What is it?

June 22, 2021

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages. It’s time for another exciting episode of “What is it?”

The Backstory

I spotted an odonate exuvia along the shoreline of a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | odonate exuvia

Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, volunteered to collect the exuvia. I accepted his kind offer since I prefer dry shoes rather than wet ones. The following photo shows me holding the specimen immediately after Mike made the hand-off.

Photo used with written permission from Michael Powell.

Can you identify the odonate exuvia to the family level?

It should be easier to determine what it is by referring to A Beginners’ Guide to Identifying the Exuviae of Wisconsin Odonata to Family, by Freda Van den Broek and Walter Sanford. Although the guide is focused primarily on odonate exuviae found in Wisconsin, it should be useful for any location in the United States of America including Virginia.

I’m still working to identify the specimen to the genus and species level. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to identify the family of odonates to which this exuvia belongs.

If you think you know what it is, then please leave a comment. The answer will be revealed in a post update.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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